Local Asian restaurant owners are picking up the pieces after thieves broke into three restaurants, stole money and destroyed property on Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in Chinese culture.
The same group of thieves hit restaurants called Urban Hot Pot, Kung Fu Tea and Bonchon.
Zong Chen, who owns the latter two, said this past year has been tough on business, and he feels they were targeted for being Asian.
"Sucks to be me as the victim right now," Chen said. “We all have families. We’re all just trying to make money and, you know, make a living for our families."
This break-in marks the third time that Chen’s stores have been robbed.
Last summer, there was a break-in at Kung Fu Tea in North Bethesda. The Kung Fu Tea in Laurel also got hit just a few weeks after.
"We came to America trying to find better opportunity and get a better life," Chen said.
Bonchon and Kung Fu Tea have repaired their damages and are now opened for business. For the entire month of February, the restaurants plan to donate 10% of their sales to help raise awareness for hate crimes against Asian Americans.
In the past few weeks, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen nearly two dozen attacks. People have thrown plants at Asian residents and senior citizens have been shoved to the ground.
John Yang, the executive director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC, said the organization tracks hate incidents and has seen more than 3,000 since the pandemic began.
"It really puts the Asian American community at fear often times,” Yang said. “The fact that we had certain politicians including the former president use terms like the China virus and Wuhan flue and even worse derivations than that, really caused our community to be made a target."
No arrests have been made in the robberies, but Chen said he hopes to keep raising awareness.
"The more we don’t speak up about it, it’s just going to keep happening," Chen said.
Correction (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 at 8 a.m. ET): A previous version of this story misstated the location of a break-in at Kung Fu Tea. The break-in occurred in North Bethesda, not Rockville.
Correction (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 at 6:01 p.m. ET): A previous version of this story identified the three vandalized restaurants as being part of the Mall in Columbia. They are across the street from the mall and not affiliated with the property.